So I was really curious to see how an shifter almost the price of a Logitech G27 (or a discounted Logitech G29/G920) performs in simracing. Enter the Fanatec Shifter.
One Sentence Review
The last H-pattern and sequential shifter you need.
Really, the only reason I can imagine to buy another shifter would be some form of force feedback. Some FFB that would lock you from cramping the shifter into physically impossible gears. However, given that this kind of “feedback” would need intense and expensive hardware machinery that I project would bomb your wallet at some thousand dollars, I don’t such shifter coming any time soon.
If shifter, then Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V 1.5!
When it comes to shifters, I’ve always thought that they are funny gadgets. Nice to have and fun to play with, but not well suited to serious racing. If you know the shifter that was included in the G27 or similar complete packages at the time, you probably know what I am talking about. You tinker a bit with the shifter mostly made of plastic. You have fun. But then, one is too afraid to rodeo the calf too hard in real races; at least when you are aiming top position.
In the end, many of such cheaper shifters spend the rest of their life as button boxes, providing you with additional buttons for when the keyboard is too wobbly to use. At least this is how it was in my case. Really, the Logitech shifter is in fact an nice button box, which happens to feature a shifter gadget.
Back on topic: The Fanatec Shifter. The Fanatec shifter is as real a shifter as it gets. It does not feature any buttons, so what remains is using it as what it is, a sequential and an H-Pattern shifter. Compared to Logitech, it feels robust, massive and heavy. Because it is.
If you’re just here to find out whether the Fanatec Shifter is worth its money: Yes, sir/ma’am – it truly is. The knob drilling is compatible to real life knobs you get at car retailers. The whole thing is heavy. It feels real. In fact so real that, if you are used to real life H-Pattern or Sequential shifters, you feel familiar within seconds. Plus it sports a sequential mode as well.
If you feel that the shifter is too noisy for your racing room: Yes. But no, that’s just optional. It can be adjusted: From almost impossible to shift, the noisy mode. To almost impossible to not shift, with virtually no resistance at all. Plus infinite nuances between those spectra.
Now the detailed review.
Press conference – Packaging, Installation & Compatibility
Packaging. The shifter comes in a relatively small, nondescript package. While the device is a big one of its kind, it’s just a shifter after all. It is only natural that the package is not as massive as a pedal+wheel package.
Unboxing. Upon unboxing, however, the eyes start to marvel again. Instantly, you will recognize that the shifter stick is truly comparable to your real car’s shifter stick. Imagining switching you car’s shifter with this one, you realize: Yes, the size is absolutely natural.
The Fanatec Shifter comes with two shifter knobs: One that is more cylindrical, and one that is spherical. What’s nice is that the shifter knob is compatible to knobs you can buy at automobile retailers (so if you’d die for a skull knob with red and pink LED lights in the eyes, you can finally go for it and show of at Facebook with a nice rig selfie).
Switching Sequential and H-Pattern Mode. The Fanatec shifter can be switched between sequential mode and H-pattern mode. You need two hand to accomplish this; don’t cramp the modes with just one hand.
Stiffness Adjustment. The stiffness (and loudness!) of the shifter can be adjusted steplessly. All you need is an allen key.
Mounting. Make sure at the product page that you have proper mounting options at hand; no clamp included. If you need an additional clamp, order it directly at Fanatec. Also read my critique about the Fanatec ClubSport Shifter clamp at the end of this article.
Practice 1 – Lotus 49
For the first time in my virtual racedriver career, I felt like my hardware is sufficient to this classic drift beast of a car, the Lotus 49.
Together with a clutch pedal, the H-pattern shifter makes any personal simulator [almost] complete. Admitted, there is always something to tune up, like multi-screen, Oculus Rift, butt kickers, and the like. But with regards to impact, in my opinion it’s an H-pattern shifter and a clutch pedal which are most important for a golden-era of Formula 1 simulator.
Seriously, all I really want to say within this short review: It’s a wonderful experience.
If you want to race the 49 true, you need to spend some time for practicing heel-and-toe technique. Rev-matching can be considered basic here.
While I have not perfected these techniques – it’s a great experience just practicing them.
Oh, and, be aware that engine breaking can be really important in this car, for the lack of modern brakes. Practice jumping gears downwards – and then smoothly clutching in or rev-matching.
Practice 2 – Lotus 79
Jumping gears and engine breaking. Fast forward 11 years of Formula 1 history, we enter the ground effect era.
After some laps in the Lotus 49, I feel like I still want to jump gears, rev-match and engine-brake. A bit like the 49, but in sonic hyperspeed this time.
The Lotus 79 is not the fastest car around, routinely going just 250 km/h (whereeas the Lotus 49 easily breaches 300 km/h). But note that the territory of this beast is the corner, not the straight.
Ground effect cars are true beasts: If you think you don’t have enough grip in a corner – you are not going fast enough!
Like with the Lotus 49, Fanatecs Shifter SQ is a perfect fit to this car.
Given that in the 79, everything is on fast forward, this was a great test to truly batter Fanatec’s shifter and see if it’s a Real Device. And what’s for sure: It is.
Practice 3 – NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Session
What’s the challenge with NASCARs? Basically, there is none. With regards to shifting. Everything else is actually very challenging.
NASCARs are torque monsters. A four-gear (4!) box from the 1950s spread along 725 HP, 900 RPM and a huge, wait, HUGE range of speeds from 0 to 217 mph (349 kph). On average, that’s almost 100 kph per gear; imagine that power on your street car: No need to shift, despite not having an automatic gear box!
But back to topic (I always lose focus when I talk about monstrous NASCARs ever since I experienced them live; their sound is truly paralyzing!). How does Fanatec’s 7-speed shifter perform in a 4-speed setup?
Very well, actually. While I wish Fanatec would have builtin a hardware barrier to prevent you from accidentally shifting to 5, it is not really a problem, after all.
Together with the clutch pedal (ideally an inverted Club Sport Pedal V3 clutch), it ones again simply feels: Natural.
Well, at least if you are used to driving manual shifter cars!
Doing everything manually is fun, interesting, challenging. It’s like a True NASCAR Car is supposed to be driven!
Qualification – Mazda MX5, Like the Real Thing
You may wonder why the low-powered street car Mazda MX5 is the last in in this series of test drives. Well, because of exactly that. It’s street car, one of a kind that many of you drive on a daily. If there’s a brutally realistic comparison – it’s virtual street car vs. real street car.
Eureka indeed. This is the life – or sim, to remain in terminology. Together with a degressive clutch pedal, you now have the hardware and software for a full blown driver’s license simulator (just in case you are a driver’s instructor :)).
Street car test: Passed like a boss.
By the way, some information regarding the kind of shifter in iRacing-cars can be found here.
Green, Green, Green – Ditch or buy?
I have some love to share for Logitech’s G29/G920 (and G27); they definitely have a place in my heart, given I won some competitive races with them. But if I am honest with regards to 100-dollars-or-less shifters out there, they are (in my humble opinion) not what for competitive racing.
Logitech’s shifter may work in a NASCAR lineup; and with a lot of exercise in most other disciplines. But really: it’s nothing. Nothing compared to Fanatec’s shifter. It’s hard to believe. But with Fanatec’s device, you don’t need much exercise. You just jump into your rig, adjust the shifter’s stiffness, and off you go. The experience is almost like when you rent a car in your holidays; you will be a little bit unused to it, but get going early.
If you are used to driving H-Pattern shifters in real life, you know how it feels to operate the Fanatec Shifter. Except, in real life you will probably not drive 800-1000 HP monsters. But in simracing, you will, and now have True Hardware for that.
Clearly. Recommended. Device. Thumbs up, Fanatec!
P.S.: Yellow flag in sector 1 – The mounting
I am using the ClubSport Shifter Table Clamp in order to mount the shifter. And this is where my only real critique comes into play: The clamp easily bends if you turn the outer screw. This makes you feel you have not turned it hard enough: “Well, if that was so easy, than surely it is not fixed hard enough already. Let’s turn some more”.
In really, you don’t need to turn them so much. However, I really wish that Fanatec will update the mounting device in a way that (mostly) prevents the bending.
If you want to really really really make sure that your shifter does not slip, use a rubber slip mat. One that you get at service stations for your car to hold your mobile phone while driving.
That’s all for today! Happy Racing!
Typically Top 2%-5% racer. Tries to not be slow.
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